This dissertation has the objective of answering two main research questions that tackle directly when and how states employ cyber weapons and engage in cyber disputes, namely: “Is there a particular context within which cyber disputes take place?” and “What are the elements that influence the mechanisms of retaliation, and possible escalation, during cyber disputes?”. The when aims at researching the main condition that causes states to employ cyber weapons against each other. It starts from the hypothesis that cyber disputes are more likely to begin and end within contexts of political, military, diplomatic tension between states as an alternative mean to signal power and force posture without recurring to physical measures, intended as political accusations, economic sanctions and military interventions. The how concerns the characteristics of the behaviour or states in cyber space, and how self-restraining mechanisms and symmetry - or the lack thereof - between dyads of states involved in cyber disputes influences how states engage against each other. This research presents two main original findings. The first finding is that, indeed, a condition of political tension or hostility, stemming from conflictual strategies and postures, between states - namely, the independent variable - is a condition common to all the analysed cases, namely dyads of states exchanging hostile CNOs, which represents the dependent variable. Counterfactually, there are no recorded cases in literature of allied countries engaging in cyber disputes. The second finding is that there is a causal mechanism between the states that confront each other in cyber space and the cyber weapon employed in such disputes. Retaliation between dyads of states constitutes the dependent variable of this research, and indeed it was shown clearly by this research how it is influenced by the two independent variables taken into consideration. In situations of asymmetry the most powerful state, both as an attacker as a responder to a previous attack, will show enough power to acquire a position of escalation dominance. Against this position the counterpart will be very likely to retaliate but in a less powerful way, de-escalating the intensity of the conflict, or surrender to the attack and avoid retaliating. In a situation of symmetry, the dynamics of attack are expected to follow a tit-for-tat movement, without increasing the intensity of the conflict. This, supposedly, to avoid an escalation into the physical realm that would easily create an impasse or a prolonged crisis, given the equality in power. Due to the fact that states employ cyber weapons in an internationally unregulated environment, and the sophistication as well the number of states employing these new weapons is increasing, this dissertation will also provide policy suggestion to propose a modification of International Law in order to better address the issue under a normative point of view, for the sake of international security and stability.

EXPLAINING STATE BEHAVIOUR DURING CYBER DISPUTES / A. Fasani ; supervisor: A. Locatelli ; phd program director: F. Zucchini. - : . UNIVERSITA' DEGLI STUDI DI MILANO, 2018 Feb 08. ((29. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2016. [10.13130/fasani-alessandro_phd2018-02-08].

EXPLAINING STATE BEHAVIOUR DURING CYBER DISPUTES

A. Fasani
2018

Abstract

This dissertation has the objective of answering two main research questions that tackle directly when and how states employ cyber weapons and engage in cyber disputes, namely: “Is there a particular context within which cyber disputes take place?” and “What are the elements that influence the mechanisms of retaliation, and possible escalation, during cyber disputes?”. The when aims at researching the main condition that causes states to employ cyber weapons against each other. It starts from the hypothesis that cyber disputes are more likely to begin and end within contexts of political, military, diplomatic tension between states as an alternative mean to signal power and force posture without recurring to physical measures, intended as political accusations, economic sanctions and military interventions. The how concerns the characteristics of the behaviour or states in cyber space, and how self-restraining mechanisms and symmetry - or the lack thereof - between dyads of states involved in cyber disputes influences how states engage against each other. This research presents two main original findings. The first finding is that, indeed, a condition of political tension or hostility, stemming from conflictual strategies and postures, between states - namely, the independent variable - is a condition common to all the analysed cases, namely dyads of states exchanging hostile CNOs, which represents the dependent variable. Counterfactually, there are no recorded cases in literature of allied countries engaging in cyber disputes. The second finding is that there is a causal mechanism between the states that confront each other in cyber space and the cyber weapon employed in such disputes. Retaliation between dyads of states constitutes the dependent variable of this research, and indeed it was shown clearly by this research how it is influenced by the two independent variables taken into consideration. In situations of asymmetry the most powerful state, both as an attacker as a responder to a previous attack, will show enough power to acquire a position of escalation dominance. Against this position the counterpart will be very likely to retaliate but in a less powerful way, de-escalating the intensity of the conflict, or surrender to the attack and avoid retaliating. In a situation of symmetry, the dynamics of attack are expected to follow a tit-for-tat movement, without increasing the intensity of the conflict. This, supposedly, to avoid an escalation into the physical realm that would easily create an impasse or a prolonged crisis, given the equality in power. Due to the fact that states employ cyber weapons in an internationally unregulated environment, and the sophistication as well the number of states employing these new weapons is increasing, this dissertation will also provide policy suggestion to propose a modification of International Law in order to better address the issue under a normative point of view, for the sake of international security and stability.
LOCATELLI, ANDREA
ZUCCHINI, FRANCESCO
Settore SPS/04 - Scienza Politica
EXPLAINING STATE BEHAVIOUR DURING CYBER DISPUTES / A. Fasani ; supervisor: A. Locatelli ; phd program director: F. Zucchini. - : . UNIVERSITA' DEGLI STUDI DI MILANO, 2018 Feb 08. ((29. ciclo, Anno Accademico 2016. [10.13130/fasani-alessandro_phd2018-02-08].
Doctoral Thesis
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/2434/547545
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